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Olwyn and Glen

Olwyn Jones & Glen Harrison

It’s said ‘you don’t choose a house, the house chooses you’ and there’s no better example of this than ‘Our House’.

Towards the end of 2008 Glen and I were heading up the road on the way to see Steve (a long-time friend).   Although tempted by the idea of buying a country property we were not ‘in the market’ for a house – why else would we drive straight past an ‘open for inspection’ sign by a bushy drive-way?  Something, perhaps curiosity, made us stop, back up and drive in – the rest is history.

For Glen it was meant to be.  He was ready to semi-retire, sell up his home in Pascoe Vale and to make the ultimate tree-change.  I, being still tied to the city would have to be content with a weekender in the goldfields.  No complaints about that!

Our property was part of a “Crown Grant” to a “John Henry Thomas” of Hunter Street, Chewton on February 8, 1945. The land was comprised of many crown allotments which were his to a depth of 50 feet (according to the Title paper-work) so I am assuming it was purchased with mining in mind. The total grant covered a little over 110 acres which included the land west of us (excepting what was once Fitzy’s place) toward Golden Point Road and north of the cemetery. The cost was the sterling equivalent of $110.  The acreage was sold four more times before 2 lots were removed from the original title in 1976. These were north of O’Hallorans Road down the Golden Point Road end.

In 1977 the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission served a notice relating to the compulsory acquisition of land. This was a 6 x 93 metre strip at the western end of the cemetery with the transfer occurring on May 2, 1978.  Finally on September 23, 1980, our lot in Sparks Road (then Cemetery Road) was separated from the larger holding. A further 12 acres was split from the original grant on October 4, 1988. As far as I know the rest is intact and is made up of 22 lots in total.

We like to think the first owners of our property, Eric and Beth Ibbitson, a couple in their 50s, both potters from Richmond, really enjoyed the 8 years they spent here.  We have been reliably informed that they built the mud brick home – having been potters I guess they knew a thing or two about clay!   They were the pioneers, and all who have come have benefited from their hard work.

The land passed hands five more times before Glen and I became the seventh owners of this beautiful property.  And our aim from the start was to improve habitat by planting, weeding and encouraging indigenous plants – this in turn would entice native fauna.  Introducing nesting boxes has certainly accelerated this.  We now have prime wildlife real estate, with comfy homes available for sugar gliders, phascogales, parrots, pardalotes and microbats, but the word is out and spaces are limited.  Most creatures are good tenants but when a colony of bees moved into a phascogale box it was quite a battle for Glen to evict them!

A welcome visitor
Short-beaked Echidna
Tachyglossus aculeatus

A not-so-welcome visitor
Eastern Brown Snake
Pseudonaja textilis

With good rains, the shrubs and trees have thickened and the understory now offers excellent habitat, but when we first came here, it was dry and sparse (the drought was yet to break) and we decided to introduce more indigenous species such as a couple of gold-dust wattles.  These we protected with wire, diligently weeded, watered and monitored for many months.  Come spring, it slowly dawned on us that our block was actually covered with healthy, mature specimens already – hundreds of them were erupting into flower all around us! Live and Learn…..  :o)

One of the biggest challenges is gorse and it is an ongoing battle.  Slowly and painstakingly Glen has removed every remnant of this weed from the property and surrounding fence-lines.  It’s no easy job as it defiantly springs back time and time again, often from long dormant seeds.  But every week through the growing season without fail he goes on Gorse Patrol, doing a lap around the block and treating any gorse intent on resurrecting itself.  It might as well lie down and die now because it has no home here.

An October special
Brown-clubbed Spider-orchid
Caladenia Phaeoclavia

A January family
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Lichenostomus chrysops

Whether it is discovering new orchids each spring or identifying another bird to add to the dozens we’ve listed, this place is paradise for us. It’s now officially ‘Land for Wildlife’ and through Trust for Nature, the land has been covenanted, ensuring its protection into the future.

Whenever people ask if he has any regrets about moving to the country, Glen’s answer is always the same – ‘Only one regret – I wish I’d done it sooner’.

Thank you, Sparks Road, for choosing us to take care of you.

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